Braves resume offseason without A.J.
With righty off market, Atlanta moves on to other starting options
ATLANTA -- This wasn't the offseason Braves general manager Frank Wren had envisioned. It's safe to say he didn't anticipate entering the holiday season still shopping for an ace.
Over the course of the past two months, Braves fans have been excited about the potential of having Jake Peavy or A.J. Burnett at the front of their starting rotation. But as time passes, it's starting to look like they might have to concede that Javier Vazquez will be their Opening Day starter.
Hopes of the Braves acquiring Burnett were dashed late Friday afternoon, when he agreed to accept a reported five-year, $82.5 million offer by the Yankees. The deal will be officially announced after some terms of the agreements are finalized.
"There are still a number of guys that we like who can fill out our rotation," Wren said. "There are still options out there."
Unless Wren is persuaded to resume trade talks aimed toward landing Peavy, none of these options provides the opportunity for the Braves to land the legitimate ace whom they've been seeking.
"We're going to have to build our rotation with depth," said Wren, who added to the staff's depth with last week's acquisition of Vazquez from the White Sox.
Instead of gaining a front-of-the-rotation starter, Wren will continue to look at the free-agent and trade markets to find proven veterans like Vazquez. Among the pitchers on his radar will be free agents Oliver Perez and Randy Wolf. It's also believed that the Braves have talked to the Pirates about Ian Snell.
With Burnett out of the picture, there was reason to at least wonder if the Braves would once again explore the possibility of landing Peavy, whose hopes were dashed this week, when the Padres were unable to complete a multiteam deal that would have put him in the Cubs' rotation.
The Braves ended an active pursuit of Peavy on Nov. 13, and they've since made it clear that they have no intention of reviving these negotiations unless the resumption of the talks are initiated by the Padres, who would no longer find a compensation package highlighted by shortstop Yunel Escobar.
"We've done all we can do with the Padres," said Wren, who also won't exhaust more time and resources toward this potential trade without a guarantee that Peavy would be willing to waive his no-trade clause to come to Atlanta.
Once the Peavy negotiations ended, the Braves immediately began pursuing Burnett and that pursuit was kept alive until late Friday afternoon. From the outset of the negotiations, Wren knew that geography was going to play a factor.
Burnett's wife, Karen, chooses not to fly, and because of this, the veteran pitcher wanted to play for a team located within reasonable proximity to his Maryland home, which unfortunately for the Braves, is located just a three-hour train ride from New York.
"We knew we couldn't move Maryland closer to Atlanta," Wren said. "We were swimming upstream all along."
Currently, the top three candidates to fill the Braves' rotation are Vazquez, Jair Jurrjens and Jorge Campillo. While attempting to land one of the second-tier, free-agent starters, Wren is also keeping open the possibility that Tom Glavine or John Smoltz could prove healthy enough to fill at least one of the voids.
From a long-range perspective, there will be a group that feels the Braves will be happy that they weren't forced to pay Burnett $80 million over the next five years.
The $16 million the Braves had earmarked to spend on Burnett next season could be used to aid Wren's efforts to land a power-hitting outfielder. Or he may have the opportunity to gain at least two veteran starters at this price.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.